Captured as a stray five months after the nuclear disaster last year, the cat was bedraggled, half-starved and diseased.
Incredibly, a full 15 months after reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant forced tens of thousands of residents of Fukushima Prefecture to evacuate, the owner has been reunited with her beloved "Kinako."
The odds of that happening were beyond slim.
Kinako had ended up in an animal refuge in Kawasaki outside Tokyo, more than 200 kilometers away.
Given that dozens of pets have not been claimed, there was a strong likelihood the cat would eventually be adopted.
Not only that, its owner had been forced to relocate to temporary accommodation in Aizu-Wakamatsu, which is in Fukushima Prefecture but far from her home.
By chance, the woman was surfing on the Internet when she came across a site that posted a photo of the cat she thought she recognized as Kinako, wearing its familiar red collar.
The 5-year-old calico was found trapped in a bated animal cage in Okuma, a few kilometers from the stricken power plant in the no-entry zone.
Initially, it was kept in nearby Miharu by the Emergency Disaster Animal Relief Headquarters.
Despite the efforts of staff, her owner could not be found and Kinako was relocated to a wildlife volunteer center in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, where she was given the name "Cheese."
Kinako weighed about 3 kilograms when she was found. Now she weighs about 4 kg.
Her ordeal in the months after the nuclear disaster clearly took a toll. Staff at the center took to the poor creature, which was infected with FIV, the virus that causes the feline version of AIDS.
Kinako and her owner were reunited on June 27.
The center had been looking for someone to adopt the cat, when the owner made contact.
She told the staff that her cat has a black spot under the right ear, while the upper part is red.
Staff member Ryoko Yamooka was overjoyed at the development.
"Congratulations, Cheese!" she shouted out as the Kinako purred and snuggled up to its owner.
Of the 36 dogs and cats that have been brought to the Kawasaki Wildlife Volunteer Center from disaster-stricken areas since January, 23 had been adopted by new owners.
But Kinako's case is the first time a pet has been returned to its original owner, according to Yasuo Minagawa, a veterinarian and the director of the Kawasaki volunteer center.
"I had never thought that an owner would be found," Minagawa said. "I just hope that 'Cheese' will live happily with its owner for the rest of her life."
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